Our much anticipated and extensive trip through the Northeast mecca of short track racing is coming to an end, sadly. Just two more stops to go and we'll be heading home. Nonetheless, I was very excited to be visiting Waterford Speedbowl again and seeing Seekonk for the very first time. Both tracks were in the process of wrapping up their 2011 seasons with Waterford running a regular show that was somewhat competing with Stafford Springs' Carquest Fall Final race.
On the other hand, Seekonk was hosting its huge DAV Fall Classic races and the stands and pits were filled to capacity. From our base near Mystic, Connecticut, we traveled up I-95 to Seekonk, just east of Province and arrived early in the day on Friday. This provided an opportunity to take a side trip to Cape Cod.
We made the trip all of the way to the very northerly tip of the Cape to Provincetown, a very unique village where dogs are revered so much they have their own drinking fountains downtown. This is the place where author, TV personality, and world traveling chef, Anthony Bourdain, got his start working in seafood restaurant kitchens.
But first things first, Waterford offered a surprise when we arrived on October 1. A group of racers who were sponsored by a local AMSOIL distributor was waiting for us to show off their cars and trophies that had been earned during the season. Terry Eames who runs the track, met us and was very gracious in letting up display our bus up front and next to the main grandstands and also let the AMSOIL race team display its cars inside the fence near the fans.
The pits at Waterford sport an official's tower where they keep close track of all of the
Waterford had a nice, level concrete pad where teams could check their ride height, and so
The beginner classes are always a welcome sight. Here, Jr is prepped by Dad prior to a pra
I first came to this track back on August 29, 2005, to visit several of the NASCAR Modified Tour teams. I liked it then and I really like it now. This is a large facility that not only provides well for the fans but is very accommodating to the racers.
Waterford started out as New London Speedway and opened on April 15, 1951. It was somewhat a dirt composition at first and after three races the dust was deemed a problem. It was then paved and a short time later named New London—Waterford Speedbowl. There was a lot of competition from numerous tracks in this region at that time, but Waterford outlasted most of them.
This medium banked track hosts the SK Modifieds, SK Light Mods, Late Models, Street Stocks, Mini Stocks, Legends, Bandoleros, and Super X Cars on a weekly basis on Saturday nights. This is an area where the Modifieds rule and the closest track that “competes” with Waterford is Stafford, but it runs its programs on Friday nights.
So, many teams opt to run both tracks and in 2011 Keith Rocco won the track SK Mod championship at Waterford and came in Second in points in the same class at Stafford. This is something we heard for years about racing in the Northeast. A team could conceivably run three or four races a week in and around New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. From our base in Mystic, we could reach any of those states in three hours or less.
In 2001, the track began running the Wild 'n' Wacky Wednesday series designed for more inexpensive racing, both for the teams and the spectators. It's a family night where Mom and Dad can take the kids on an outing and enjoy the racing programs at a discount over the weekend shows.
There was a threat of rain on this Saturday night, but it never really materialized. So, the racing action proceeded. I was impressed with how many teams were on hand. There were a large number of Legends and Bandoleros cars. It's always good to see younger drivers building their experience and confidence in these types of cars. And head-and-neck restraints were being used throughout the classes
We ran into the AMSOIL race team at Waterford which was proudly displaying its cars and tr
I have complained about the lack of right upper control arm angles in the Northeast Modifi
It was hotter in Waterford and Seekonk than it was in Daytona Beach, Florida, the two week
At a medium-banked track like the 3/8-mile Waterford, these newbies can hone their racing skills that don't just involve learning how to go fast, but how to pass and work traffic and how to concentrate long enough to take the checkered flag.
As far as the action goes, there was plenty of side-by-side racing in all divisions, especially with the SK modifieds. The sign out front touts that, but in my notes I took, I called out the great door to door racing long before I took the photo at the top of this article.
Waterford is one of those tracks where we get a comfortable feeling that the community supports the racing. And that is crucial to the very existence of racetracks. Here, on this night, as soon as the fans realized that the rain was not coming, they arrived in good numbers and the event went off very well.
I really believe that the length of the track, the medium banking and the class structure and number of classes will all add up to success for this track for many years to come. With continued community support and a program that encourages youth participation and providing the entry-level classes to enable that, Waterford is a model track.
The old race cars create a lot of interest as history plays a big part in the popularity o
I honestly can't think of a better way for Dad and Son (or Daughter for that matter) to sp
There were some very nice and colorful Midgets on hand. The racing is great among these ca
This was our first and only venture into the state of Massachusetts and we couldn't have picked a better weekend for racing. This was the DAV Fall Classic race that featured the Bob Valenti Modified Racing Series as well as the NEMA, Northeastern Midget Association cars along with the SYRA, Seekonk Youth Racing Association, and other classes for a total of 12 divisions.
Other classes present were the Pro 4 racers, Late Models, Super Trucks, Pro Stocks, Pure Stocks, Sport Fours, Sport Trucks, and Street Stocks. This made for a very busy schedule, but the track ran everything right on schedule.
Seekonk had an early start compared to other New England tracks. It first opened on May 30, 1946. Remember that WWII ended just months earlier in the later part of 1945. D. Anthony Venditti began construction of the track immediately after the war was over and must have been quite a visionary. He knew that the returning soldiers and the families they would spawn would need both an outlet for their youthful energy and a place for the family to go for entertainment. Racetracks, at that time, fulfilled both needs.
Francis Venditti, Anthony's son, hosted our visit and along with his mother has operated the track since his father died in 1991. From 1946 till now with one family in ownership is a long time for uninterrupted management of a racetrack. It's a monument to the vision of this family that it could remain successful year after year.
Before going to Seekonk, I had visited Spafco Race Chassis and car builder Ken Barry and his dad, Art, at their shop in Preston, Connecticut. There we talked about setups, his cars and his upcoming SK race that weekend at Seekonk. We compared notes, discussed all of the various things that go into the setup of the SK Modifieds and came to some conclusions for a package we both thought would do well.
Previously, Ken had said that Seekonk had not been that good of a track for him and I think it may have been because some of the other tracks he runs are special, in that they are very hard on tires and the setups need to be different to compensate. We could go more conventional here.
We basically put the car into a normal and balanced setup without any rear steer or Ackermann. Once he tried the car out, everything felt good. In the heats, he gained five positions from the draw placement farther back and this helped him get a good starting spot in the feature.
Ken Barry's SK Modified is the platform for give-away candy for this pit party where the f
This Mini-car lines up for the feature. Note the GoPro camera mounted on the roof. It's pr
I just love these retro haulers. This one, used by the Ryan Preece Modified team, is in mi
Starting third in the 100-lapper, within less than 30 laps he had taken the lead and held it for another 60 or so laps. The car was set up a bit tight the whole way and one driver caught and got around Ken, but he and this other car cruised away from the field and he finished Second. For me, it was fun to again be involved in working with a car after being on the road for so long and being relegated to only watching racers race.
We ran into the AMSOIL race team at Waterford which was proudly displaying its cars and tr
The Midget races were very interesting too. It was evident that the cars that took care of the tires moved to the front and dominated. Interestingly, the car that ultimately won and was considerably faster than the field was sponsored by Hoosier as evidenced by the huge Hoosier painted on the side of the car.
We came away from Seekonk feeling like short track racing was indeed alive and well, at least in this part of the country. There were a lot of teams who participated, many, many fans who came out for three days of racing and none were disappointed.
These last two weekends concluded our 2011 AMSOIL Great American CT Tour of the Northeastern portion of the country. I basically saw what I expected having heard all of the tales of the huge following that comes with racing in this region. And at the same time I was energized by all of that because until you are there and living it, you just don't get the feel of it.
The country was beautiful, the people were the best we've met so far on our U.S. Tour, both locally and at the tracks, and the history moved us. We took time to visit the countryside including great parts of every state we moved through and lived in.
I couldn't resist snapping a photo of this mess. At least when it comes time to trace wire
From the cornfields of Ohio through the coal fields of Pennsylvania, into the Adirondack Mountains and up along the Saint Lawrence Seaway we traveled. Across the northern boundary of New York next to Canada to Vermont and into northern New Hampshire and atop Mount Washington we continued to explore.
We based our camp at several spots in Maine and took in the Acadia National Park choosing to camp on the "quiet side" of Mount Desert Island, on the opposite side of Bar Harbor and away from all of the tourists.
We put down our bus levelers at a great KOA campground just outside Mystic, Connecticut, as a base of operations when we visited in and around that area and up to Cape Cod. And through all of that, we still were not tired of this trip. That says volumes about where we had been and who we had met.
And so, now that we've had a chance to rest up through the winter, we're looking forward to our third phase of the U.S. Tour. We will be traveling to the upper Midwest, leaving in the third week of June this year. We start our journey in Michigan and move across the northern states through Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and into Montana.
We'll then move south into Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and across the wheat belt through Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa completing what I kiddingly and unofficially call the 2012 End of the World Tour. If all that has been speculated about the world coming to an end this year comes to fruition (which I seriously doubt), we hope to be at Yellowstone National Park when that caldera blows. I for one don't wish to be among the survivors in that scenario.
Anyway, we've had a blast so far and met lots of great racers, learned volumes about short track racing in America. Hopefully, we have contributed to your knowledge of the sport to the end that our reports have provided some valuable information that can be used to promote our sport and make it better. I think we have met those obligations and will continue this journey to the final chapter along the West Coast next year.